As the Chief Product Officer at Reltio, my focus is on the data, and helping companies avoid being “Amazoned” (Informal definition: Brick and mortar stores under threat from online competitors). Rewind 1.5 years ago, an article by Phil Wainewright of Diginomica caught my attention. “Whole Foods Market teams with Infor to transform retail.” Credit Whole Foods executive vice president and CIO Jason Buechel with his vision to be more data-driven, and to create one source of the truth.
Whole Foods and Infor’s partnership was supposed to result in a next generation, cloud-based retail management system to transform its core operations. Infor, which hosts the software on Amazon Web Services (AWS), intended to make the capability available other retailers in the industry.
In the article, Buechel also told author Phil Wainewright of Diginomica that Whole Foods has carefully weighed the pros and cons of that cloud infrastructure being operated by Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is part of a company with which it competes in the online grocery market.
Kudos to Phil Wainewright for this article, because it called out what all Retailers are thinking today. The only way to avoid being “Amazoned” is to run on the very platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), that can allow me to compete with Amazon.
Retailing executives are asking themselves am I okay with that? What are my alternatives? Clearly Whole Foods CIO Jason Buechel knew it was a risk worth taking. He may not have foreseen that Amazon would acquire Whole Foods, but he definitely knew that doing nothing was not acceptable.
As for the question, did Amazon buy Whole Foods for the groceries or the data? Clearly this is an amazing twofer. They get a physical presence that can help their delivery and Amazon Fresh efforts, but they also get the significant dataset of customers who buy groceries from Whole Foods. They now have the information to bring together a complete single view of the customer, from brick and mortar shopping to online purchases.
In the end, the data-driven takeaway to all retailers is not just evolve or be Amazoned, but do it fast because no company can afford to spend years working on digital transformation, when their very survival depends on better customer experience, better marketing, better omnichannel engagement, personalization and more.
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